Picture this. The daughter of the family has a secret boyfriend whom she's about to introduce to the family. No big deal, right? But what if she is an Indian and he's a Pakistani?
Picking on this pert premise screenwriter Neeraj Pandey does a special 69 on cross-border politics. Borderline tensions are diffused to the point until we see just the ludicrous futility of cultural bickering. It's a delicious idea to build a plot around. Pandey derives inspiration from a Spanish film Seres Queridos where the conflict between the Palestinian boy and his girlfriend's Jewish family was served in a feisty feast of farcical episodes, all meant to draw humour from the dysfunctional family's flaying dysfunctionalism.
In the Hindi adaptation the Pakistani boy is utterly and delectably lost in his girlfriend's Punjabi home in London.
Director Eeshwar Niwas (who had earlier adapted the ransom caper Ruthless People in a reasonably watchable film Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega) uses London city's night-scape as a beguiling backdrop to the Punjabi family's bickering. Ironically the plot loses its liberal air once out on the streets. Anupam Kher's tryst with a British hooker is sadly unanchored.
It's one evening in the family's history. The script brings out the eccentric characters and their whimsical ways with the kind of pleasure that a housewife experiences while serving up her husband's favourite dishes although she may not be too good at the cooking.
A lot of the humour simply sags in soggy lumps. There is a distinctly 'European' flavour and fervour to the unraveling of the comic mode in the dysfunctional family's life. Ali Zafar as the bewildered Pakistani boyfriend and Kirron Kher as his scattered mother-in-law-to-be project a prowling predatoriness to their scenes together. They are a delight to watch when thrown together.
I really wish there was more of Kher and Zafar in the plot. The meat of the matter lies in the mater's time on screen with her damaad. Yami Gautam as the giggly prim girlfriend is a sketchily written mediocre character with no dips and curves.
New-find Sara Khan as Yami's sister comes across as a far more seductive character. The role is tantalizing and Khan plays with guts and vivacity the near-divorced single mother with a restless foot under the dining table. And for my money Sara Khan's table-top dance with the distinctly diffident Ali Zafar is the film's highlight.
Sadly by the time the Khan girl's sexy jig comes along the plot knows not what it is doing. It meanders in search of a combustive climax. The strenuous effort to Indianize a Spanish comedy begins to take its toll on the narrative when the dysfunctional family (no different from , say, Preity Zinta's family of eccentrics in New York in Kal Ho Na Ho) runs out of tricks to rivet us to their wackiness.
The film comes to an inglorious halt with one of the character's stumbling home in a dazed condition, much in the same condition as the plot. But there is a lot that goes in its favour. The elegantly done-up cosy and eccentric atmosphere of a London home, for one. David Meadows' cinematography looks at London as home rather than a touristic destination. Sanjoy Chowdhury's background score reminds us that no matter how hard the characters scream the music needn't get aggressive in support.
The cast, as mentioned, largely does well for itself with Ali Zafar, Kirron Kher and Sara Khan leading the pack. Zafar and his screen-other have an excellent Indo-Pak moment towards the end when they taunt one another's country's politics .The dreaded 'K' word is not mentioned. But you can feel the sting of the simmering discontent between the two cultures. And your mind plays back to Kirron Kher's warning to her daughter, 'What will you do when he marries another woman? When he makes you change your religion?'
Is it enough for two individuals from clashing cultures and countries to be in love? Love can be quite a bitch. Total Siyapaa is total madness. An audacious comedy that dares to poke fun at a border issue, the film is stylized and is attentively staged. It may not equal the intense cross-border passion of Randhir Kapoor's Henna. But it isn't even trying.
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